Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Cuban Gravel Crisis 2015

What does it take to get you out of bed early, I mean even before the chickens wake up??  Over the years I have learned that occasionally you have to sacrifice precious sleep and wake up at 3:45am to do epic stuff.  I've also never been disappointed by waking up early.  No regrets, not ever.

The first annual Cuban Gravel Crisis  took place on Sat., Oct 17th.  This gravel ride is a pick your own poison type of thing.  You could choose a 20 mile option for $6 or pay $20 for the 50 miles version.  Those who want to get their moneys worth will pay $20 for the full boat, 102 miles of gravel goodness.  Considering the options it was a no-brainer.   Cuba MO is just 1 and 1/2 hours from my house. I had the legs, the time, $20 and a sitter.  I'm down.

My Warbird was brought into the house and given a good once over on Thursday.  "Viper" has been ridden a lot lately and has been well maintained, he needs to be since I depend on him for 500+ miles per month.   He has a new chain, bar tape and fresh meats.  All items necessary and well deserved.  In fact I wrestled the new tires, Sammy Slicks 35's,  on it that evening.  It took me a ridiculously long time to get them on, all the while I hoped I did a good job.  Jim was in Utah hiking and stuff so I couldn't ask a second opinion and use his eyes.   I'm confident that I had the rotation arrows correct, sometimes I get sloppy lining it up on the rim.  A Busch Wildlife gravel/off road ride was my test run.  Those 15 miles went fine.  I put in a little more air and crossed my fingers.

The drive to Cuba was dark and quiet. Damn, I wish I knew someone coming from my area to ride with.  I have no one to "discuss" my plan with, talk about CP's transitions, timing.... or work out my butterflies.  Am I prepared for this? Do I have enough food? Will I run out of water? Talking that out helps me see if my plan is actually a good one or if I need to make adjustments.  Helps my nerves too.    When I arrived my check in was quick and efficient and Josh Brown, race director, gave me the lo down and told me where I could park.

Number 227 reporting for duty

Within minutes I was naked in my car at the First Baptist Church changing for the ride.  Forgive me please. There weren't any other options from what I saw.  Dressing for the day was going to be a challenge, starting temp was 36 degrees and would reach only the mid 50's.  I knew I should start cold but the pansy inside of me was yelling "go for warm and just peel".  I settled on "almost warm" with leg warmers, arm warmers and a windproof Vaude jacket.  Before we take off I would slide a Hot Hands in each glove.  Brrrr. One thing I hate is cold hands.  I had on wool socks because I hate having cold feet too.

A few moments before 7am there was a short meeting.  Josh informed us that there was plenty of fresh gravel and to be mindful that some of it was laid on a few inches thick and may be a little on the chunky side.  My heart started racing when I heard that and I took a look at my wheels. Please let my tire set up be tight.   Josh said the course was marked with green arrows... certain spots were also marked with small flags and large yellow signs thanking motorists for sharing the roads.  We were also given cue sheets at registration so it was all good.

Be mindful of loose gravel  Borrowed from

My strategy was to do the best I could and be home by 7pm.  We rolled out as it was still a bit dark, I followed the red blinking lights down the road. Damn, those guys off the front are super fast. I could hold that pace for about a minute, maybe two.   Man I'm cold.  And hungry. My belly is growling, I hope no one can hear it.  Not a very good way to start a race/ride with two major obstacles in the way but it was the hand I was dealt.  I knew I would warm up once the sun came out, the hunger was different. I had plenty of fuel with me I just hoped my stomach would accept it.   My Camelbak was filled with a heavy CarboRocket mix.  I had pizza in a squeezie thing, a Snickers and Trail Nuggets.
Not me.  I'm in the background though.

The cooler temps meant that the snot rockets would be flying.  I have done my due diligence and practiced so I don't feel bad for those riding near me or behind me.  What I am worried about is dehydrating!  There was a lot of snot rockets laid out in that first forty miles.   Just when I thought I was done and I couldn't possibly make any more I would. I'm happy to report that I managed to snot myself twice and my fellow riders were unscathed.  Practice, practice, practice.

Within a few miles I hear "Hey, are you that Wendy Davis"?  I say, "Maybe, what has she done"?  He says his name is John Porter and he follows my stuff, blog and FB page, he finds me humorous... "you are being funny, right"?  I'll never tell. He is a member of the Dirty Dog Pack and seems nice so I let him stay.  Looking around I see 4 guys, (Giant, florescent jacket, maroon jacket, and John) and realize I need to stay with them or ahead of them for the next 98 miles.  We are the back of the pack.

 The sun starts to peek out within the hour.  I reach into my jersey pocket to grab my sunglasses and SNAP!!  They break in half and I immediately feel the bile rise in my throat.  My husband hated those glasses but I loved them.  I also needed them!  Having had surgery on both of my eyes makes it imperative to keep dust and the bright sunlight out.  Over the next hour I develop a smart headache and my eyes feel like sandpaper.  However,  no reason to feel sorry for me.  I'm still pedaling and have a twisted grin on my face. I'm warm, the sun is out, my legs feel good.  That is a lot of positives.  Patience is what is needed here. Thirty miles until the gas station.  That won't take very long will it?  At least I am in good company.

The scenery is beautiful.  If you are driving through this area you miss so much.  Plus you don't get the feelings of seeing gravel as far as you can see knowing you have to pedal it. You have to use your legs and lungs to get to the end.  You also don't get to feel the hills. They were impressive.  As the sun came out and the day unfolded we were treated to Fall leaves just starting to change, uninterested dogs, and rising temps.

Our first checkpoint is at mile 25.  Smiling volunteers take our number and offer food and water from their truck.   John and I are still riding together and sucking wind up the steep hills.  I remembered seeing the elevation listed near 7K but was told not to trust it as it was definitely more.  John mentioned that "this reminds me a lot of The Ogre".  I have not done the Ogre but heard it was an incredible leg shredder.  Too bad it's no longer an option to ride... One of y'all should pick that up, dontchathink?

Less than 3 and 1/2 hours later John and I roll into the gas station, CP2.  I tell him I need to buy glasses and use the john, I don't think he caught that, LOL  I also said "Are you going to leave me"?  He mumbled something I did not hear.  I purchased some glasses and used the john and was out in less than 3 minutes.  I look around and no John. Awww man, he left me.  This is when I meet his wife Betsy.  She says John just left "but you can catch him".  She offers me a fig newton, I love 'em, but not today.  It's like chewing a tire and tasted awful.  I pedaled out of her sight and spit it out.  Thank goodness for the liquid calories.  

Holy Hell!  there are some HILLS in Cuba MO.  Crazy steep!  I remember one specifically that I had to lean forward while in my granny gear.  I was afraid I was going to slide off my saddle and tumble down it, no kidding.  The amazing thing is that I was able to ride them, well most of them. (I want to thank Spinning classes)   I will admit to walking three hills and  do not feel the least bit hurt about it.   It felt good to stretch my calves that were screaming and my feet that were on the verge of going numb.  Walking is another gear, isn't it? 

So, now I'm chasing John down now.   How dare he leave me.  When I catch him..... He doesn't understand that when you are a woman you take advantage of indoor potties.  I'm completely alone for the next 18 miles.  I finally catch John at the C station that was not a CP.  I spot him on the side of the building, he looks in my direction and says "are you stopping"?  I say "NO, and I'm dropping you like a bad habit, just like you dropped me".  A huge smile was on my face as I turned my bike away from him and proceeded to turn myself inside out.  I want to put the hurt on John so he understands the error of his ways, LOL    I head out onto the gravel hoping the hills are less impressive for the next 22 miles.

It takes a while before John catches me, not sure on mileage since I didn't pack my Garmin. Whoops!  He rolls up next to me and I'm genuinely happy to see him. It can get very lonely out there.  John apologizes and I forgive him.  The next 15 miles gives some hellacious rolling hills and chunky gravel.  Mountain biking skills paid off  big time when I picked some bad lines and helped me confidently bomb the downhills.  It was in the section I caught air and scared/surprised John.  I told him that "I knew what I was doing".  I may be slow but I have some skills.

It was on this section that I decided I was on a ride and when I finished I finished.  John and I stopped twice on this section just to breath, take it all in and admire our views.  After several lungfuls of air we pedaled on. We continued to get along so we stayed together.

Checkpoint 3 is at Josh's house. What hospitality!  I was tickled when we arrived because there were pickles left and I got to meet the ill tempered cat, who turns out to be a sweetheart and came right to me for a pet.  John pulls out a smashed banana and I giggle saying "you need one of these", and I flash him my banana keeper.  He is totally jealous, I remove my banana and it is perfect.  Bananas and pickles lead to interesting burps, thought you should know.

We have 20 miles to the finish.  We feel good, we look good, and the lady at the CP said it was "all downhill from here".  We knew she was lying but we also knew the worst was behind us.  On this section we meet some horse riders, we slow down and pass very carefully.  It's turned out to be a beautiful day!  Several miles later we encounter a very unhappy cowboy at the reins of a horse and buggy.  We slow down, I smile and start to say "Good Afternoon" and then stop.  He is giving us one of those "if looks could kill" glares. We went by without incident, I hope his day got better.

Within two miles of the finish a young man comes flying by us. I'm like "Damn, who does he think he is pulling that crap two miles out"?  I want to go after him but want to finish with John.  I chose the latter.  Turns out that John knows him and he says something like "he can't let this old man beat him".   Well, I think he beat us by a minute. And next year he won't beat us, the old folks, giggle.

Race Results

When I arrived at the finish line Josh congratulated me for being 3rd Woman and handed me a sweet monogrammed towel.  We were offered beers, water, food, it was awesome.  Josh brought over a box of items saying "I saved some stuff for you guys", and we each grabbed water bottles.  How cool was that?  Before I left I was also handed a cool Public House Pint glass and a handful of chocolate.  Pedaling back to my car I was happy having made a new friend and satisfied with my effort for the day.

I dug into my backpack to retrieve my keys.  I had attached them many hours ago with a large green carabiner.  I pull out the jacket I carelessly shoved in there and the carabiner falls out, no keys.   I dig around in the pack and low and behold the keys were in there!!!  Not kidding. (John was there as my proof)  I guess that means that God isn't mad at me for changing in the First Baptist parking lot.  Good thing too, I was getting ready to do that again before driving home.


The date for next year has already been assigned. It's October 15, 2016.  Mark your calendars!  This race/ride was very well organized and had wonderful volunteers. The event was well attended and had some great sponsors.  The course was well marked and offered over 10K of climbing!  The views were incredible and the price was definitely right. This event also boasts a 100% finish rate for the 100 miler!   I can only see this getting bigger and better.  It's in the right hands to do just that.  

 Yup, that kind of shit happens when you are expending an effort.  And your body starts to hurt.  Tell it to shut up and keep going.